Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Dartford Harriers Xmas Dash and Kids' Fun Run 2014

The Dartford Harriers Xmas Dash and Kids’ Fun Run 2014 was the second running of this festive event through Central Park in Dartford. I had picked up a couple of entry forms quite a way in advance of the event but only filled them out and registered on the day, which really was the easiest way to enter the event.

richey, me and dawn [photo: brian page]

We had pre-arranged with our friend that we would take her son with us and he and my daughter could run the fun run together, just like they do when they go to Gravesend junior parkrun. The race HQ is in the Dartford Harriers clubhouse at the southern end of Central Park, which is also the HQ for Dartford parkrun, and upon arrival it made a pleasant change not to have to worry about course set up, volunteers, and everything else that goes with staging an event.

I had arrived with plenty of time to spare and spent it chatting away to SLGR and Dartford Harriers team mates, as well as some other friends from other clubs around the local area. The route for the 5k Xmas Dash was 3 clockwise laps around the main body of Central Park – mostly on tarmac, but a short section was on the grass.

richey and me [photo: brian page]

It made a change running around the park in the opposite direction to that of the weekly parkrun and following my heavy legs from the previous day’s run, I had decided to just have an easy jog around the park – after all, there was no chip timing and the times and positions were not recorded at all. This was essentially a Christmas fun run with no pressure to push the pace – just as it should be!

In the start funnel, I lined up next to SLGR team mates Dawn and Richey and we stayed together for the whole of the first lap, even posing for a photo when we saw our club chairman with his camera as we approached the end of the first lap. After this we ended up separated from Dawn, but we continued our way around the course for the next two laps until we had the idea to put in a proper effort on one of the Strava segments on the course.

#teamslgr and the mayor

We were briefly separated during our all-out efforts on the 300 metre out-and-back Strava segment, but we were soon reunited and after taking a quick detour around the back of the Dartford Harriers clubhouse, we finished and were presented with our festive medals by the Mayor of Dartford – Cllr. Avtar Sandhu MBE.

There was a great turnout of So Let’s Go Running runners and after rounding them all up we managed to have a great team photo taken with the Mayor before it was time for the kids to have their turn at running.

the kids fun run [photo:7t]

The original kids' fun run course was supposed to be up to 4 laps around the track (with each child free to decide when they had had enough), but as the track is currently undergoing refurbishment work, this was changed to a loop (or two) on the tarmac paths around the edge of the main grass area in the park. My daughter and her friend took part and had a great time, and were thrilled when they also received their festive medals. We managed to get a quick snap of the three of us with our medals before returning to the clubhouse to warm up.

showing off our rudolph medals [photo: dani]

It was a fun, family event and definitely one to add to your family's pre-christmas calendar!

Dartford parkrun 20 - cold, tired and clunky

The weather forecast for Dartford parkrun event 20 was similar to the week before, so my main concern upon waking was that the tarmac paths could be covered in frost or, even worse, ice. However, when I popped my nose up against my bedroom window to check the conditions outside, there was not a patch of either to be seen.

It was, however, a really cold morning again with the temperature only just hovering above zero, so I hit the road for the 2 kilometre jog over to the Dartford Harriers clubhouse wearing my Dartford Half-Marathon t-shirt and carrying my volunteering vest, jumper and wooly hat in my hands, to begin setting up the course. I was warm enough during my jog, but when I arrived I dumped my warmer clothes on the fence and started to set up. Big mistake. I could gradually feel the cold setting into my body. At 9am, once I had persuaded my daughter that standing in the path of seventy-odd eager runners was not a great idea, the run was started, and by which time I was frozen solid.

beginning of the trail section [photo: brian page]

Another thing that made this morning’s run a little more difficult than usual was the amount of hard running I had accumulated in my legs in the seven days previous – there was the previous week’s Dartford parkrun which was followed by the Alan Green Memorial 10 Mile race the following day. Then on the Thursday evening I took part in the Gravesend Floodlit Series 10k race at the Cyclopark, and pretty much gave everything I had left to that.

As I plodded along the first kilometre with heavy legs and feet stomping down on the floor like bricks, I decided that today would not be a time-trial effort so I backed off and ended up running at around my lactate threshold pace for the next few kilometres. I sped up during the last kilometre to just about pop in a sub-20 time. I was handed my finish token by my daughter and got to work on scanning barcodes as usual.

[photo: brian page]

Once the scanning had come to an end, my attention immediately turned to course signage retrieval. But as I turned around I found that most of the signs had already been brought back to DpHQ and whatever was still out there was already being dealt with. It was this that reconfirmed that the event is clearly functioning very well and our volunteer and running community are taking responsibility for some of those little jobs that really, really help to take the pressure off.

So I got to work on packing the gear away and before I knew it I was in the clubhouse with my bananas and cup of tea, chatting away to whoever had a spare ear. I couldn’t hang around for too long as I had a subsequent running appointment in the shape of a First Aid taster training course and I had to pop home to get changed before being picked up for that.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Gravesend Floodlit Series 10k - December 2014

Race 3 of the 2014 Gravesend Floodlit Winter Series of races took place on 11 December at the Cyclopark. This time I entered on the night and paid the special SLGR entry fee of £5. There were, as always, two races taking place. The 5k at 7pm and the much more popular 10k at 7.30pm.

kit selected and ready to go [photo:dani]

It's that time of year where the clothing choice gets tricky and I had arrived with a few options. For the bottom half I had either just shorts or running tights with the shorts on top, and for the top half I knew that I wanted to wear my club vest so it was a case of deciding whether to go for a base layer or tech-t-shirt and arm warmers combo. I also had gloves and a hat in my bag just in case.

I headed out with my SLGR team mate Adam for a warm up and to test how the conditions felt whilst running. The temperature was around 7 degrees but stormy conditions were forecast for the night and the wind had picked up significantly. After a few minutes of jogging, it was clear that the tights were not going to be required and I decided to go with the tech-t-shirt and arm warmers combo up top - this proved to be the perfect decision, unlike a few days earlier at the Alan Green Memorial 10 mile race where I got it horribly wrong!

So, although it was the third race of the series, it was only my second as I had missed the first. Anyone that read my post about the Gravesend Floodlit Series 10k November 2014 Race would know that I finished in one of those times that really annoys most runners - bang on 40 minutes. Just one second quicker would have made a massive difference. So with that in mind, I had unfinished business to resolve. The goal of the evening was to run a sub-40 10k on the Cyclopark track.

So when the race director, Martin Burke of Nice Work, started the race, I headed off down the opening downhill section at a strong pace. I'm really enjoying running 10k at this venue - the four lap course feels quite neat in my head and I love breaking it down into the four quarters. With a goal to maintain a sub-10 minute per 2.5km lap pace, which also gives me another very neat sub-4-minute per kilometre target.

the runners awaiting their starting orders [photo:dani]

Lap 1 - The course was pitch black in places and it took a while to feel confident running into the darkness. I ran it at quite a strong pace, and as the lap progressed, those that started way too hard began to fall back. Things started to feel a little more settled as I came back towards the race hq at the end of the lap. I had a Medway Tri runner (P6) a few metres in front of me and quite a way on front of him was an Istead and Ifield runner (P5).

[lap time: 9.32] [total time at 2.5k: 9.32]

Lap 2 - I started to gain on the Medway Tri runner and eventually drew level. On the downhills he would shoot off about 10 metres in front of me and on the uphills I would claw back the difference. This continued throughout the whole of this lap. It's worth noting that it was pretty windy in some parts of the course. By the time we reached the 5k point we were neck and neck.

[lap time: 9.52] [total time at 5k: 19.24]

Lap 3 - As usual, the Medway Tri runner opened up a gap on the opening downhill at the beginning of lap 3, but I stuck with what I know best and as we turned the next corner to begin heading up the incline, I nudged in front and started to edge away. Although he remained close behind me for quite a while, I never did see him again. Towards the end of the lap, the Istead and Ifield runner who had been a significant distance ahead earlier on was now right in front of me and I moved past him just before the end of the lap and slotted into fifth position.

[lap time: 9.42] [total time at 7.5k: 29.06]

Lap 4 - Even though it was my slowest, this was probably one of my favourite laps of the night. I felt tired but still strong enough to continue pushing hard. I was impressed at the way I had run up until now and had received a big mental boost from knowing that I was still pulling away from my adversaries. On top of this, I had caught up and lapped some of my running buddies from SLGR and Dartford Road Runners, and just being able to exchange a friendly grunt was enough to give me (and hopefully them too) a further boost. I was almost red-lining by this point but kept pushing right through to the end.

[lap time: 9.56] [total time at 10k: 39.02]

splits and course map [image:strava]

As you can see from my total time, I achieved my goal to come in under 40 minutes by quite a margin. I'm kicking myself that I couldn't have found a few more seconds (maybe without the strong winds I would have) and got under 39 minutes! Anyway, if someone had asked before the race, I would have been over the moon with a 39.59 finishing time so I will just enjoy the fact that I exceeded my goal by such a large amount.

The splits picked up in my GPS data were really good. They were fairly even throughout the whole race, but the second five kilometres are the ones that made me smile the most. I don't think I've ever run a 10k as well paced as this. This was my second fastest 10k to date, but even though the time was twenty-one seconds off my personal best which I ran at the British 10k 2014, I felt that that I ran a much better race this time.

Going back to my duel with the other runners, it was a lot of fun (it always is when you come out on top!) and I ended up finishing over 30 seconds in front of the Istead and Ifield runner in P6 and well over a minute in front of the Medway Tri runner in P7. Because it was so dark, I couldn't see any other front runners ahead of me but it turns out that I was only 22 seconds behind the runner in P4 - I had thought he was much further away than that.

#teamslgr [photo:dani]

The official results were online by the time I got home. I finished in P5 for the second month on the trot, but this was a much better performance, knocking 58 seconds off my time from just four weeks earlier. On the night one of my teammates picked up the first prize for the 5k and plenty of others managed to run new personal bests. Another good night for #teamslgr at the Cyclopark.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Alan Green Memorial 10 Mile Race 2014 (aka Thanet Coastal 10)

The Alan Green Memorial 10 Mile race (formerly the Thanet Coastal 10) is hosted by Thanet Roadrunners AC (TRAC) and takes place in early December. I entered the 2014 event right on the deadline for online entries through the Runner's World website - the entry costs were £15 attached or £18 unattached, but an additional £2 was levied by Runner's World for processing it.

I collected my race number and triathlon-style timing chip on the day from the race hq which was located in the pavilion on the seafront at Westgate-on-Sea. The pavilion had plenty of warm indoor space, toilets and a bar selling refreshments. The race number and timing chip collection points were efficiently manned and worked really well. Additional portaloo facilities were provided outside the pavilion.

The race itself had a 9.30am start time and with the start being down on the promenade and about 700 metres away, the 229 runners began to make their way towards the start from around 9.15am. I lined up just a few rows from the front in order to not be delayed at the start. The race got under way bang on time and the runners headed east along the tarmac/concrete seafront path towards Margate.

I had checked the weather forecast for the day and saw that the temperature would be fairly mild at around 7 degrees or so, but as the previous day had been frosty and bitterly cold, I panicked and ended up getting my clothing choices completely wrong. About 1 kilometre into the race, I started to overheat and felt really uncomfortable. I whipped off my hat and gloves, which helped but I still couldn't cool down due to the base layer and tights I was wearing. My gloves managed to slot into the waistband of my shorts but my hat was too bulky for that and I spent the rest of the race carrying it - I can't believe I got this so wrong, I'm usually spot on with this kind of thing.

turner contemporary art gallery [photo:7t]

The course was largely flat but when it reached Margate there was a short, sharp incline as we passed the Turner Contemporary art gallery (which is the building featured on the bespoke race medal). The water station was reached shortly after and was followed by a few more gentle gradient changes as the runners joined and ran along a large chunk of the Margate parkrun course, and then the halfway (and turnaround) point at the top of the cliffs at Foreness Point. I hit the 5 mile point in pretty much bang-on 32 minutes.

The other part of the weather forecast that I had paid special attention to was the wind. The Met Office had forecast wind speeds of 17 mph with gusts up to 27 mph. As this race was run on an out-and-back course, that meant that one way would be great and the other pretty dismal. As I reached the turnaround point, I had pretty much forgotten about the wind as it blowing in the same direction as I was running, but as I made the u-turn to return to Westgate-on-Sea I felt the full force of the wind blowing right in my face.

margate beach beach-huts [photo:7t]

I knew in an instant that my return journey would be slower than the outbound one, so I dug in and kept plodding away back along the parkrun course where I saw some of my teammates from So Let's Go Running and Dartford Harriers AC (DHAC host the Dartford Half-Marathon) who were all still enjoying the tailwind and looked blissfully unaware of what was about to hit them. I soon reached the water station and the centre of Margate again, and this time enjoyed the downhill section past the Turner gallery.

After this, a small group of around 5 or 6 runners seemed to form and I slotted in at the back trying to shelter from the wind (which had now been joined by some light rain). To be quite honest, I don't think my attempt at drafting made any difference at all, but we somehow stuck together through the last three miles along the promenade under the cliffs as we got closer and closer to Westgate-on-Sea.

gps km splits and map from strava [image:strava]

I knew the finish was at the top of the cliffs so that left one final incline, but I wasn't entirely sure how we would be getting up there. Then all of a sudden I saw that some runners that were ahead of the pack were heading up a path to our left coming back towards us and seconds later there was a line of cones and one of the friendly marshals (they were all great by the way - thank you) pointing us towards the path.

I made the 180 degree turn and was relieved that I was no longer running into the headwind. But of course it was now all uphill and our little group started to fragment as the stronger legs coped better with the incline. A runner made a break for it and I followed, leaving some others behind. The very last bit took us onto some grass which was a little uneven underfoot and it made sprinting difficult. Still I hung on and with great relief, I crossed the finish line.

uhm... the windy finish area atop the cliffs [photo:7t]

I had my timing chip removed and proceeded to collect some water, a banana, a goody bag and a free tech t-shirt. I very quickly started to feel the cold so headed into the pavillion to warm up for a bit before getting changed into my warmer clothes. By now a good 14 minutes had passed since I had crossed the line so I headed back to the finish just in time to see the second finishing SLGR runner, Richey. He was followed by John, Dawn, Gary, Steve (DHAC), Rachel, and then Kat.

The results were online very quickly after the race and as I was driving back home my travel companion for the day, Richey, looked them up on his phone and told me that I had finished in 16th position out of 229 (top 7%) in a chip time of 1.06.03. That is over a minute slower than my personal best and it shows just how much difference the headwind made during the second half of the race - if you check my splits you'll see I was around 10-15 seconds slower from the 9th kilometre onwards. My 5 mile splits were approximately 32 minutes and 34 minutes. Without the wind it looks like I would have been on for a new personal best.

i like it when races have bespoke medals [photo:7t]

The Thanet Roadrunners AC race report and link to the official results can be found here.
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